According to the Texas Observer, the Texas Senate passed a bill on May 8 a bill that will license so-called “baby jail” family detention centers for undocumented families as childcare facilities — all while potentially waiving regulations required of other facilities that offer childcare. The bill was passed with a 20-11 margin along party lines.
The bill was reportedly written by GEO Group, which the Observer describes as “the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison corporation,” and according to the grassroots nonprofit America’s Voice, three of the four people who testified in favor of the bill are GEO employees.
The Observer reported that two of America’s three family detention centers reside in Texas. GEO reportedly receives $55 million annually from the federal government for their operation of the Karnes County Residential Center, a family detention center south of San Antonio that was the subject of a Los Angeles Times exposé in 2015.
The Texas Pediatric Society has reportedly condemned family detention centers for their potential to cause depression, anxiety, and impediments to child development.
State Sen. José Rodríguez, a Democrat from El Paso who opposed the bill, said that its proponents are “placing a lot of faith in the ability of the state to protect these children, but the bottom line is these are prisons and there’s no question about that. There may be some TVs here and there, some bunk beds, but it is a secure facility, a baby jail.”
Rodriguez’s insisted that this bill, if written into law, will “lesser standards and lack of accountability that will result in women and children being harmed”.